We would like to present a short review of our most ambitious project which involves our experts in all parts of Russia – monitoring of the official websites of public authorities and local governments. This is a story about how expert control improves the work of authorities.
Supported by the RIA Novosti information agency, the Freedom of Information Foundation studied official websites of regional civil status registration offices (civil registry offices) for informational openness. The 83 websites studied appear to be open a bit more than a half, i.e. to 52%.
Tatyana Kozulina, FIF Researcher:
Today, it is easier for a citizen to come to a civil registry office to get information than to seek for it in the Internet. An official will explain anything so that a visitor can understand while most of the websites publish only normative acts one hardly can understand without special legal knowledge. Quite few civil registry offices' websites allow to fill an application form or a payment receipt form online thought such possibilities are is obviously demanded by the public. The civil registry offices are to make much more further effort if they wish their websites to help citizens to avoid long queues and to save financial and human resources for the offices themselves.
Full study report is available here (in Russian).
How efficiently is budget money spent on launch and maintenance of official governmental websites? We submitted requests to federal executive, top regional executive, and regional legislative government bodies, asking them to provide amounts of budget costs for launch and maintenance of their official websites. Having analyzed the replies received, we make conclusions whether there is correlations between cost and quality of the websites in question.
On February 5 – 28, 2014, the FIF research team held online interaction with officials of federal executive government bodies. During the interaction period, the officials could fix failures of information placement in the Open Data sections, or argue against the FIF researchers' position.
The full report is published at the Infometer portal (in Russian).
Online interaction period is the finishing stage of a cycle for our audit of governmental websites' informational openness. After the FIF researchers assign initial evaluation scores, officials of the audited bodies can impact evaluation results and improve both their websites' content and their positions in the final rating of informational openness. For this purpose they should get familiar with evaluation scores for their website, and place lacking information or express grounded disagreement with the scores. Interaction between officials and FIF researchers take place directly, in real time, by means of the Infometer system where an official can post a comment to an evaluation score and then wait for a FIF researcher's reply he/she will be notified of by email. As a result, informational openness for the websites belonging to the bodies whose officials participated in the interaction can grow significantly. Here, we are telling how it has been for regional parliaments.
We present results of audit performed together with the Open Government and addressing open data publication at Russian federal executive government bodies' websites.
Since 2013, open data has become a key topic of discussions on governmental openness. They expect that "free" vast volumes of machine-readable official information will facilitate communication between the government and the public, and bring economic profit. Some people already consider the Open Data as a basis for open state governance, expecting that its other components will develop following data openness. The Openness Standard for Federal Government Bodies as well as federal legislation pays significant attention to open data. The Freedom of Information Foundation has studied how the requirements are observed.
In early 2014, the Freedom of Information Foundation audited official websites of regional legislative (representative) bodies. The FIF research team has collected positive and negative examples of information placement and developed helpful guides how to fill the websites with information.